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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7134 reviews in the archive.

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by luther on 5/24/2014

Overall Comments

To whom it may concern:

I am the owner of an S.S. Stewart Special Thoroughbred that means the world to me.  It did, however, have several issues that made it less than enjoyable to play.  The 5th string pip had disintegrated with age ( as well as some of the fretboard surrounding it), the friction tuners were troublesome, and it generally sounded quite harsh with Nylguts on it.  I was referred to Chris as a luthier who had an interest in the old Stewarts.  Upon arriving at  Chris' shop, I discovered that he actually has a Thoroughbred that is a close relative to mine ( within 100 of the same serial number) and he does indeed have a passion for vintage open backs.

We spent majority of the day talking about the repairs my banjo needed as well as the sound I was looking for.  Since the "sound" is very subjective, he had me test drive other banjos he had and we tried a different bridge on mine, etc. until we both understood the target.  

With regard to the repairs and modifications I was requesting, I should point out that Chris feels a responsibility to care for these old banjos.  As a result, he will point out a more suitable course of action even though it means less money in his pocket.  For example, I was dead set on new planetary tuners, but he explained how he could rehab my original equipment and keep the banjo original.  This was a good decision.  He got them working smoothly and I no longer have tuner envy.

The work he performed to repair the fretboard  and replace the pip was well done and nearly invisible.  

Where Chris really shines is in setting up a banjo for the sound you want.  He installed a bone nut and rebuilt the material supporting the nut where it had degraded over time.  This allowed the string vibration to transfer more efficiently.  He also provided two custom bridges.  I don't know what the second bridge sounds like because the first one hit the mark!  I am very happy with the tone of my T-bred sounding good is up to me!

I would definitely recommend Chris Cioffi's work.  He takes this banjo business very seriously and it shows.


Troy Bucy

Overall Rating: 10

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